Division Focus: Gastroenterology

Exceptional patient care and research make UNC’s Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology a national leader in treatment of disorders of the digestive system.

Enteral nutrition. EGD. TPN. G-tube. Like all medical specialties, the language of gastroenterology is one all its own. The UNC Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology is no exception to a specialized list of acronyms and vocabulary. We educate patients, families and other medical providers on a wide range of illnesses and disorders affecting the digestive system in children.

UNC Pediatric Gastroenterology (GI) is a national leader in treating children with gastrointestinal issues, consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as among “America’s Best.” Formed in 1977, our division specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric esophageal, gastrointestinal, hepatic and pancreatic disorders in children and adolescents. We perform an extensive range of related procedures; consult on nutrition, gastrointestinal and liver problems; and care for children before and after liver transplants.

We treat a variety of GI issues in children, including:

  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Chronic constipation
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Hepatitis
  • Prolonged jaundice in newborns
  • Celiac disease
  • Giardiasis

Our team also commonly performs a variety of procedures, such as:

  • EGD (upper gastrointestinal endoscopy); biopsies
  • Colonoscopy (lower gastrointestinal endoscopy); biopsies
  • Polypectomy
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Percutaneous liver biopsy
  • Foreign body removal from esophagus or stomach
  • Dilation of esophageal strictures
  • Sclerosis of esophageal varices
  • Banding of esophageal varices

About Our Team

UNC Pediatric GI is comprised of five pediatric gastroenterology physicians, four nurse practitioners and three nurses. Our division has been under the leadership of Steven Lichtman, MD, since 1998.

In April of 2014, we welcomed our newest member, Martin Ulshen, MD, who rejoined UNC after spending 15 years at Duke. Prior to his time at Duke, Dr. Ulshen practiced at UNC for more than two decades, helping establish UNC’s pediatric GI service in the late 1970s as the state’s very first pediatric gastroenterologist.

Other members of our care team include:

Our team works closely in collaboration with various other specialties and ancillary services to provide care for patients, including:

  • Psychology
  • Speech
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Transplant surgery

Our Facilities

Patients referred to the UNC Pediatric Gastroenterology are seen in the outpatient clinic at N.C. Children’s Hospital and also at the N.C. Children’s Specialty Clinic, located on the Rex Healthcare campus in Raleigh. Our physicians also treat inpatients hospitalized at N.C. Children’s Hospital for gastrointestinal issues.


Research is an important part of our work. Members of our division are actively engaged in research, especially surrounding the treatment and understanding of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

Dr. Mike Kappelman runs a clinical research program focusing on various aspects of IBD, including identifying disease risk factors, studying the safety and effectiveness of different treatments and measuring quality of life and quality of health care.

Dr. Ajay Gulati runs a lab that studies how the normal gut bacteria control inflammation in the intestines. Understanding the role of gut bacteria in IBD may lead to safer, more effective therapies for children with these diseases. 

The Future of Pediatric GI

When it was formed in 37 years ago, UNC’s Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology  was the first of its kind in North Carolina. Today, our division continues to be a leading authority on pediatric GI on a state and national level.

Our team will welcome a new division chief in the fall of 2014 and will soon establish a fellowship program to train new generations of pediatric gastroenterologists. Learn more about our programs and services by visiting us online.

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